Tag Archives: ballot stuffing

Our Russian Election Day Special

Russia: Was There a Ballot Box?
By Chto Delat (St. Petersburg, Russia)
March 12, 2012

It is no secret that an overwhelming amount of corruption pervades Russia’s civic and economic life. And this [past] winter’s parliamentary and presidential elections proved to be no exception. Anyone who has taken an active interest in the practice of so-called “free and democratic” Russian elections can attest to their being rigged or skewed, to a greater or lesser degree, since 1993. This was especially the case with post-Soviet Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, and his “triumphant” re-election in 1996.

In light of this, it was widely anticipated that in the most recent elections, the ruling party, United Russia, and the campaign of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin—which were, in fact, one and the same entity—would engage in massive electoral fraud to secure vote majorities. Which is why the simple demand for “fair elections,” first made this past winter by a widespread grassroots election monitoring movement, was not just a radical call for change, but also one that proved capable—albeit temporarily and incompletely—of uniting opposition parties and ordinary citizens across the country’s political spectrum.

The grassroots movement turned this unprecedented opportunity to challenge the status quo into a palpable reality, with the main goal of impeding any attempts to manipulate and falsify election results, or, at the very least, documenting them.

No one, however, could have predicted this movement would become so popular among segments of the population that have previously been averse to politics. Young professionals—including lawyers, artists, economists, journalists and academics—suddenly enlisted as volunteer observers at polling stations. They drafted legal complaints and attended protest marches and rallies after monitors revealed the monstrous and despicable tricks the authorities employed to tip the elections in their favor.

This film, shot by the Mobile Observers Group for the Petrograd District of St. Petersburg on March 4, 2012, recounts what the group considers to be a run-of-the-mill instance of electoral fraud: a portable ballot box that should have been used by workers at a local market was stuffed, unbeknownst to the constituents, with ballots marked for Putin. It was impossible, however, to prove conclusively that the fraud had taken place because the “victims” themselves either could care less about what had happened or were too disempowered to do anything about it other than to wish the observers success in their mission.

The most dramatic result of the work done by the Mobile Observers Group was not the evidence it offered of electoral violations, but rather its exposure of the traditional division of Russia into two classes of people: those who recognize the need to act as free citizens and defend common civic interests, and those who remain indifferent. Only time will tell how this conflict, recurrent throughout Russian history, is resolved in its most recent incidence.

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Editor’s Note. Although this little bit of exposé reporting might seem like “ancient history” to some, we thought it was worth posting, because elections were held in various Russian regions and cities today (October 14). The effects on the voting population of the system of total fraud sketched above were best demonstrated in Vladivostok, where the turnout was LESS THAN 11% for elections to the city council. As Komsomolskaya Pravda notes, the turnout in Vladivostok was lowest in precincts where the greatest number of candidates had been tossed off the ballot before election day, while it was highest in the single precinct where all candidates were allowed to run.

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Vote Rigging in Russia: Reports from the Field

A journalist friend of ours just called and told us the following story. He had just got a call from a local musician, a member of an extremely popular local band with a national and international following. This musician had gone today to his polling station in Saint Petersburg to vote, only to be told that he had already voted! When polling station officials showed him the ballot he’d allegedly submitted, he tried to take a photograph of it. Polling station officials tried to have police detain him for this impudent civic act, but in the end let him go.

Meanwhile, his friend and band mate also tried to vote today, at another polling station in Russia’s “Northern Capital.” He was also informed by polling station officials that he, too, had “already voted.” What are the odds of an “irregularity” of this sort happening to two members of the same band at two different polling stations in a city of five million people?

So if and when, later today or tomorrow, Vladimir Churov (the chair of Russia’s Central Electoral Commission and a flagrant clown obviously appointed expressly for the purpose of totally discrediting the idea of free and fair elections in the minds of Russian voters) announces yet another “decisive” victory for United Russia, you, dear readers, should have no illusions: the fix was in from top to bottom, from Vladivostok to Smolensk, from the very beginning to the dismal, criminal end of this so-called election campaign.

If this isn’t the case, then it’s hard to imagine why the campaign to discredit the Golos Association, the only independent election monitoring organization in Russia, or today’s cyber attacks on the web sites of Golos, Echo of Moscow, and other media outlets were necessary.

Or consider this: a Nashi activist in Veliky Novgorod, caught red-handed the other day offering cash for absentee ballots:

And here, some nice old ladies at polling station no. 1484/1485 in Yekaterinburg are shown diligently engaged in filling out ballots ahead of time:

If you think these are “isolated” incidents (as Churov and his band of statistical pirates will no doubt claim), think again.

Finally, there’s such a thing as “soft” coercion, as witnessed by a Facebook friend of ours in Peterhof, a glorious imperial suburb of Petersburg:

I just got back from the polling station, where a friend and I unanimously voted for Yabloko [a democratic opposition party]. In the foyer of the school [where the polling station is located] there’s an exhibition of children’s drawings entitled “Our Strength Lies in Unity.” They think they’re so clever. But no, they’ve proven once again that they’re crooks.

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Filed under film and video, political repression, Russian society